Wendie Renard: France

Former USWNT player Nikki Marshall highlights France's powerful defender Wendie Renard.

France: Wendie Renard

Wendie Renard grew up in Martinique, an overseas region of France in the Caribbean, where she was always playing soccer with the boys, using goal posts made of shoes and kicking anything that would roll, from balls to plastic bottles. 

It was rare for girls to play soccer in Martinique, but Renard’s family — particularly the women — pushed her to play, especially after her father died to cancer when she was 8. Her aunt was a referee; her mother never turned down an opportunity to watch a match. 

Getting noticed as a women’s footballer in France is difficult. Doing so in Martinique, thousands of miles away from the mainland, is nearly impossible. But Renard was determined from a young age. At 14, she was given a trial at the famed Clairefontaine academy, where the likes of Thierry Henry, Kylian Mbappé and William Gallas once trained. But she didn’t make the cut.

In stepped Olympique Lyon, the most dominant force in women’s football in Europe. Another trial, another chance. This time, at the age of 16, she made the squad. She earned her way into the Lyon lineup and then the French national team. Now, she’s arguably the best defender in the world, having won four Champions League crowns. 

Heading into the 2019 Women’s World Cup, Renard has more than 100 caps and 20 goals for her national team.

Not bad for an island girl from the Caribbean. 

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